Picture Postcard From The Other World by Philip Levine
Since I don't know who will be reading this or even if it will be read, I must invent someone on the other end of eternity, a distant cousin laboring under the same faint stars I labored all those unnumbered years ago. I make you like me in everything I can -- a man or woman in middle years who having lost whatever faiths he held goes on with only the faith that even more will be lost. Like me a wanderer, someone with a taste for coastal towns sparkling in the cold winter sun, boardwalks without walkers, perfect beaches shrouded in the dense fogs of December, morning cafes before the second customer arrives, the cats have been fed, and the proprietor stops muttering into the cold dishwater. I give you the gift of language, my gift and no more, so that wherever you go words fall around you meaning no more than the full force of their making, and you translate the clicking of teeth against teeth and tongue as morning light spilling into the enclosed squares of a white town, breath drawn in and held as the ocean when no one sees it, the waves still, the fishing boats drift in a calm beyond sleep. The gift of sleep, too, and the waking from it day after day without knowing why the small sunlit room with its single bed, white counterpane going yellow, and bare floor holds itself with such assurance while the flaming nebulae of dust swirl around you. And the sense not to ask. Like me you rise immediately and sit on the bed's edge and let whatever dream of a childhood home or a rightful place you had withdraw into the long shadows of the tilted wardrobe and the one chair. Before you've even washed your face you see it on the bedoilied chiffonier -- there, balanced precariously on the orange you bought at yesterday's market and saved for now. Someone entered soundlessly while you slept and left you sleeping and left this postcard from me and thought to close the door with no more fuss than the moon makes. There's your name in black ink in a hand as familiar as your own and not your own, and the address even you didn't know you'd have an hour before you got it. When you turn it over, there it is, not the photo of a star, or the bright sailboats your sister would have chosen or the green urban meadows my brother painted. What is it? It could be another planet just after its birth except that at the center the colors are earth colors. It could be the cloud that formed above the rivers of our blood, the one that brought rain to a dry time or took wine from a hungry one. It could be my way of telling you that I too burned and froze by turns and the face I came to was more dirt than flame, it could be the face I put on everything, or it could be my way of saying nothing and saying it perfectly.